Monday, July 30, 2012

The Prophet Promised

A few years ago President Hinckley made a promise to the members of the church. 
Come to think of it, I suppose this promise applied to non-members too. 
In a nutshell, he said that anyone who read The Book of Mormon by the end of that year would be blessed with a special blessing from Heavenly Father. 
Well, since he was the Prophet after all, I figured that he must know what he was talking about. So, along with most of the others in my family, I committed to finish reading by year’s end. 

For one thing I felt I really needed blessings. I knew that if I did what the President asked, the Lord had to give me something wonderful.
He would be bound by His Prophet’s promise. It was a rule.

As the weeks went by, everyone in the family was making good progress except my son-in-law and me. We were procrastinating and falling behind as year’s end approached. 
I rationalized that Christmas break when school was out would give me a chance to devote myself to finishing. I don’t know what Scott was figuring since he still had to work.

But Christmas break turned out to be a really busy time even though I wasn't teaching. (What was I thinking?) Thankfully m
y family came to the rescue.

My grown daughters relieved me of much Christmas shopping, wrapping, and cooking.
Books of Mormon were stashed in every conceivable place that I might sit down. Travel sized copies were put in my purse and in the car. I still remember the honking at intersections after red lights turned green and I was still reading.
Scott had to manage on his own. I think because people had more confidence in his ability to get the job done.

Just as soon as vacation began I started to read in earnest. Every spare minute was spent with a book in my hands. 

Still, it turned out that even with help from my daughters those spare minutes were pretty hard to come by. 

Every now and then I’d get a call from one of them asking what I was doing. If my answer wasn’t, “Reading,” I’d hear a stern, “Ma!”  
So with the help, and despite the procrastination and the Christmas rush I managed to finish. 
It was late in the evening on December 31st but I finished!

A few weeks later, our oldest daughter asked me one day, “What’d you get?”

“Huh?” I replied. What are you talking about?

“Do you know what blessing you got for reading?”

 I pondered a bit.

“Well,” I told her, “Now I know for sure that Heavenly Father loves me.  Everybody always says that He loves us and I suspected that He did. But now I know for sure. He knows me and still loves me. Actually, he loves me a lot.”

“Well, that’s a good thing,” she said.

I’m still ashamed of what I said next. 

I can’t believe it but I told my own daughter that I was disappointed. Even though what I got was nice I really wanted something else from Heavenly Father. 
I said that what I really wanted was to be thin. That's what I'd been hoping I'd get.

How could I have said such a thing! To my own daughter! 
The sin of ingratitude is one of life's biggest mistakes!  It's a sure path that leads away from happiness. 
I still shudder.

But life often doesn't turn out the way you expect it will, does it? 

And as it turns out, since that year of the prophet’s promise, Larry and I have been blessed with some pretty significant adversity. 
We both had to leave jobs we loved because of health issues. 
Larry’s eyesight is now very poor. He can no longer drive at all, much less his beloved 18 wheelers.
I can no longer walk. I’ve become a student of that great teacher named pain. 

But through every trial that wonderful blessing promised by the prophet and given by our Father has been a comfort. 
Every single day I’ve been grateful for it. 
Absolutely knowing that Heavenly Father loves me has made the difference between hope or despair, hanging on or giving up. 
I wouldn’t trade that sure knowledge of His love for anything in this world. 
Not even to be thin.

I’m so very sorry for what I said to my daughter that day.  I hope that Father will forgive me. 

I’m really trying to work on letting go and trusting Him to do the right thing for me, even when it hurts.

So even though it seems that every time I pray for strength I get a new set of barbells, I’m going to try to be grateful and get to lifting. 
Then the strength will come, right?

Scott finished his reading too. 

I never asked him what he got but whatever it was I’m sure it was exactly what he needed.


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Moments of Clarity

Here I sit, advancing age playing practical jokes on my face, surprised at how many things I still haven’t figured out.
Sometimes I look around in bewilderment and say to myself, “Look at you…and after a lifetime of trying too.”

One thing I've noticed though, as I look back, is that now and again life presents small moments which shape you.
Often these are little happenings which may seem insignificant at the time. But whatever they are, they define you, along with all the rest that the years bring.

One happened to me on the day I first saw my husband’s face.
I was then a girl of 15, oldest of four children of a widowed, alcoholic mother. I had very little experience with faith or religion of any kind and knew nothing about the pre-existence.

Well, on this day I was expecting some of my girlfriends who were meeting at my house. We were going to the movies with some boys we had just met at Slide Rock a few weeks before.
The doorbell rang and there stood a couple of the young men I knew and with them was a stranger.
He was tall and handsome.
But first I must explain that I wasn’t like my friends who were always going gaga over some boy at the mere sight of him. I never fainted over a rock star or fell “in love” fifteen times a year.
Yet, when my eyes fell on this young man's face I had the oddest feeling.
It wasn’t …..OOOOOO! What a hunk!  It was more like trying to remember the words to an old song and not being able to.
I wanted to say something but didn’t know what it was.
Time passed but I never forgot that strange feeling.

Cut to years later.
Larry (the good looking stranger who was at my door) and I are married, have kids and have recently joined the church.
Friends from the ward have invited us to a popular LDS play called “Saturday’s Warrior.”
Remember, we’re in our first, wobbly steps of living in the light and ignorant of just about everything.

Well, as this fictional play unfolds, I realized that the storyline involves a couple who knew and loved each other in the pre-existence and were now trying to find each other here on earth. This idea, that people may have a history together before being born, was totally new to me.
As that thought sunk in lights came on in my brain.
I actually remember grabbing the arm of my theater seat to keep from jumping up and shouting.
“I know what it was!  I finally know what it was!  What I wanted to say when I first saw Larry.
It was, “I didn’t expect you so soon!”

Again it's years later.
I’m reading a book by one of my favorite apostles, Neil Maxwell, called “Things As They Really Are,” I think.  This man is a major “brainiac” as one of my students called really smart people.
In his book Brother Maxwell says that one day, despite all the injustice we see in this world, everyone who has ever lived will be able to honestly declare that Heavenly Father treated them with perfect fairness.
We will all agree that there has been no injustice, no inequity.
All of Father’s children were equally loved and blessed no matter what we may see from here.
What a thought!  It was one of those small moments for me.
I can’t tell you how many times it’s helped me to deal with the pain we all see in this world. How often have I wondered how sometimes horrific things could happen.
But, Brother Maxwell says that one day we will know that sufferings, big and small, even agonies, have been reconciled.
Those who hurt so much now will one day say, “Father loved me too. He blessed and loved me perfectly.”

Again it's years later.
As I sit in sacrament meeting I see ahead of me a beautiful, talented, faithful, woman in her 30’s. This young woman is loved by all who know her and is a rock in our ward.
She’s single and childless and longs for an eternal companion and family.
I think of what a wonderful mother she would be.
Then I remember some of my high school students, who are having children while still children themselves. With no idea of how to live a happy and productive life they are parenting a new generation of the lost and neglected.
What’s fair and right about that, I wonder.

I think of other lovely, faithful, single women of Zion that I know.
One I remember especially.
She was returning from a “Singles” dance where she said she felt like a piece of meat at the market.
She opened up her heart a bit to me and began talking about her hopes and dreams.
She looked me straight in the eye and said, “I’m not going to settle. I deserve to be sealed to a man I love deeply. A man who is a worthy priesthood holder, valiant enough to be a stake president.”
There was such an amazing mixture of faith and pain in the tone of her voice that I’ll never forget it.
I think it was an example of what Brother Maxwell called in his book…..“perfect grit.”

Cut back to me sitting in sacrament meeting thinking about these things. These small moments that define.
“Heavenly Father, something mighty wonderful has to happen to these amazing sisters if someday I’ll be able to say that they’ve been fairly treated. Nobody deserves a husband and family more than they do. Their children would go on to bless generations forever just because they had such mothers.
They only want what’s right.  What's just about their situation?”

Strangely my thoughts went back to that theater so long ago and that feeling I wanted to shout.
“I finally know what it was! What I wanted to say when I saw Larry for the first time."
“I didn’t expect you so soon.”

Well, I thought, perhaps one day these precious, beautiful sisters will look up or turn a corner, and there will stand the most handsome, valiant priesthood holder she has ever seen.

She’ll look at him, at the love in his eyes and the tears streaming down his rugged face, and she'll say...
“What took you so long?”
He’ll take her in his arms and say something like...
“I was on my way. We were at a ward campout and there was this young boy in the river. He couldn’t swim. I went out to help and I was called home.  I’ve been up here every day of your life praying desperately to Heavenly Father that you’d wait for me.”

There are other amazing possibilities for these precious sisters of course, but I could begin to see that Heavenly Father may know more about them than I do.

Maybe I should trust Him.